National News

NFL Commissioner: 'We Will Get Our House In Order'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 11:24

Roger Goodell has been embroiled in controversy over how the league has handled off-field violent behavior of some of its star players. He said he had not considered resigning.

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Double Charged: Does paying back victims cost kids their futures?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 11:13

Ricky Brum stood in an alleyway behind a furniture store in Manteca, California, and to be honest, it was a little awkward. He didn't really want to be there. Last February, Brum set some cardboard boxes on fire just a few feet away.

"Just that right there," he said, pointing to a black spot on the pavement. "Just a little burn mark on the floor."

Brett Myers/Youth Radio

One match did the trick, said Brum. "Like, I just sat there and was like 'Bam!'"

That "bam" changed Ricky Brum’s life. He was 15 when he set the fire. It was his first time getting in trouble with the law. He was lucky: his charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. Brum went on probation, and into juvenile hall.

Brum, and his mom Leanne, thought the worst was behind them. But then, while meeting with their public defender, they found out about restitution.

"We thought it was a joke,” said Leanne Brum.

Sitting at his kitchen table, Ricky Brum flipped through the restitution claim. Even though the fire department report said there was no damage to anything in the furniture store, the owner claimed his entire inventory of nearly 1,400 items was smoke-damaged.

The bill came out to $221,000.

The Brum family is fortunate. They own a house and have homeowner's insurance, and the insurance company went to bat for them, negotiating the restitution down to $10,000, and paying for that amount.

Restitution laws are by in large designed, to “make victims whole,” by requiring offenders to repay victims for their financial losses. Some states limit restitution for juveniles. In Missouri, restitution is capped at $4,000 for juvenile offenders. In New York, it’s $1,500. But in California, there are no limits to how much money minors can owe victims, often on top of serving time behind bars.

Christine Kroger is Ricky Brum's attorney, and she argues that restitution is anything but rehabilitative for young people. "What we see is that it’s all about punishment,” said Kroger. “For example, there's a whole caseload of kids that have satisfied every other term and condition of their probation, but they just don't get off probation because they still owe money."

Restitution can’t be erased by claiming bankruptcy. And if restitution is still owed by the time offenders turn 21, it can turn into a civil judgment. Victims can garnish up to 25 percent of offenders’ wages, can take their tax refunds and place liens on property.

Sueann Koster's grandson threw a pool party at her house while she and her husband were away on vacation. The grandson was in high school, and one of the teens who came over to swim came back and robbed her.

At the time, Koster was recuperating from breast cancer. She said, "I had done a year of chemo and my husband told me he wanted to take me on a little trip. Well, when I came back, I was not just a victim of cancer, but of a burglary."

Suanne Koster collected $8600 in restitution after her Woodland, California home was burglarized by a teen who was friends with her grandson.

Myles Bess/Youth Radio

The teen stole jewelry including her husband’s wedding band and a necklace Koster got as an anniversary gift, and in court, Koster says the teen spat at her to intimidate her from claiming restitution.

"Well, he did not realize that the more he did that, the more I was determined,” said Koster. “You know, 'You little punk. You’re not going to intimidate me.'"

Koster won $2,600 restitution for the stolen jewelry, and another $6,000 for things like mileage, lost wages and the cost of new security upgrades to her home – including the cost of spaying and neutering her new watch dogs Dorothy and Toto.  The offender still owes Koster about $1,000 in interest, but has otherwise paid the restitution in full.

Suanne Koster adopted Dorothy and Toto as guard dogs after her home was burglarized. The cost of spaying and neutering was covered by restitution. 

Myles Bess/Youth Radio

Payment is rare. There are no statewide statistics on juvenile restitution, but Youth Radio collected numbers from three of California’s largest counties and found that less than 30 percent of restitution amounts are paid.

"I think that people recognize there are certain dollar amounts that are not going to be paid at all, ever," said Roger Chan, who runs the East Bay Children’s Law Offices in Oakland. Juvenile law, said Chan, is about reform, giving young people a chance to start over. However, Chan argues that restitution too often gets in the way because it saddles kids with unreasonably high debt.

"If you order such a huge amount of restitution to a young person who has no ability to pay it, how meaningful is that as a consequence?” said Chan. “Is that really an effective way for the young person to be rehabilitated, and is that really beneficial to victims?"

Chan is trying to change California’s law to let judges consider a kid’s ability to pay. It’s not just for the benefit of young offenders, Chan says, it’s for victims too – because when restitution sums are realistic, he says victims are more likely to get paid.

To say that juvenile restitution is complicated is an understatement. It’s a process that wrestles with two competing philosophies around the idea of justice: justice for victims who have the right to be paid for their losses – even when the offender spends time in jail -- and justice for juvenile offenders, who need to be held accountable, but also allowed to move on from their crimes, and from the system.

What's the new normal for the housing market?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 10:50

Susan Wachter, Professor of Real Estate and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, explains the 'new normal' in the housing market:

Lizzie O'Leary: “What do you think about the kind of lending standards we have seen post-crisis? Because there’s arguments to be made that lending standards were really lax before the crisis, but then at the same time that now credit is so hard to get for a lot of people. Is there a median point that the economy should try to hit?

Susan Wachter: “Lenders have tightened up. Standards have tightened up. Way beyond where they were in the period before the crisis. As well they should. But they’ve gone beyond that. So, if you compare credit standards today to where they were in 2001, which was a period way before the crisis, where we had earlier decades of lending that [was] reasonable, responsible, sustainable, we’re not there yet. Standards have eased up slightly over this past year, but they’re far tighter than historically were their norm. So, why is that? In part it’s because of the experience of lenders, that if they make a mistake on the loan that loan is coming back to them. Reps and warranties are going to prevail. So they’re being extremely careful. We need a solution to that problem and we’re not there yet, but the solution that we have right now, which is keeping hundreds of thousands of people in renter-ship who would sustainably be able to be home owners- that solution is where we should be pushing towards.”

O'Leary: “Warren Buffet gave an interview a while back in which he said ‘Listen, I don’t think the economy is really going to recover until housing does.’ I know you’re probably not going to like me trying to put a time frame on this, but when could you see housing really come back?”

Wachter: “Well I think housing is going to come back in the new normal frame within a year to two years. That’s not the difficult question. The question of when will housing come back so it brings us to a traditional role in wealth building, in home ownership for families as they begin their family formation period, that’s a much larger issue, and one that I don’t have an answer to.”

A Single Insurer Holds Obamacare's Fate In 2 States

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 10:24

Where have the insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act struggled the most? The answer lies in commerce, not politics.

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What have we lost in a world of constant connection?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:55

There was a moment, a few years ago, that Michael Harris felt digitally overloaded.

So Harris quit his job and went offline.

Harris explores this experience in his new book “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection”.

“Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet. What does this unavoidable fact mean?

For future generations, it won’t mean anything very obvious. They will be so immersed in online life that questions about the Internet’s basic purpose or meaning will vanish.

But those of us who have lived both with and without the crowded connectivity of online life have a rare opportunity. We can still recognize the difference between 'Before and After.' We catch ourselves idly reaching for our phones at the bus stop. Or we notice how, mid-conversation, a fumbling friend dives into the perfect recall of Google.”

His Camera Takes Us To The World 'We Must Preserve'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:44

In the new exhibit "Genesis," the noted photographer Sebastiao Salgado shares his vision of "a kind of state of humanity of the planet," from Amazon tribes to frozen Siberia.

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Is the Internet taking us back in time? The return of handmade goods

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:43

Jody Rice fell in love with needlework as a child. After an unfulfilling series of jobs in film, Rice decided to quit her 9-5 life.

Her online business of digital patterns may sound modern, but Jody feels her colorful, geometric graphics actually get back to where cross-stitch started, thousands of years ago. Jody lives off her business full time, and connects to an entire community who appreciate her reinterpretation of this ancient form of decoration. 

Click play above to hear her story

White House Announces Campaign Against Campus Sexual Assault

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:41

In unveiling the "It's On Us" campaign aimed at preventing attacks on college campuses, President Obama said such violence is "an affront to our basic humanity."

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Will Jack Ma’s quirkiness play in the U.S.?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:35

There’s no two ways about it. 

Jack Ma is a quirky guy.

From dressing up like Lady Gaga, to belting out the "Lion King" theme song, to revealing on CNBC that his hero is, the decidedly fictional, Forrest Gump.

Jack Ma is Jack Ma. 

And Jack Ma is not the buttoned up (or turtle-necked up) CEO that we’re accustomed to.

But don’t let his antics fool you.

"Everyone seems to underestimate Jack Ma," says Porter Erisman, former Alibaba VP and director of the documentary 'Crocodile in in the Yangtze.'

He calls Jack Ma "incredibly  innovative, very visionary."

Ma is also ambitious. And to achieve his goal of reaching an audience outside of China, some think he'll need to tone his antics down a bit.

"The particular quirky flamboyance that he has historically displayed seems to sell very well there," says Max Wolff, an economist at Manhattan Venture Partners, which helped institutional investors get Alibaba shares. "It won't sell quite as well for a global audience."

But Ma’s flash doesn't seem to be scaring off investors today. Even though the company is set up in such a way that Ma will be in control, not shareholders.

Alibaba Shares Surge On First Day Of Trading

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 09:32

Shares of the Chinese e-commerce giant opened at $92.70 a share on the New York Stock Exchange today, making it the biggest initial public offering in U.S. history. They were priced at $68 a share.

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Thousands line up to exchange Ray Rice jersey

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 08:43

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had a press conference today. He said, again, that he's sorry he handled the Ray Rice incident the way he did, that the NFL will do all it can to assist groups that fight domestic violence and that he hasn't thought about resigning.

But on a day when Apple fans lined up by the thousands to get their hands on the iPhone 6, so too did Ravens fans line up at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Also by the thousands.

To trade in their No. 27 Ray Rice jerseys.

This is not a line for the new #iPhone! Thousands line up to exchange @ravens #RayRice jersey at #M&TBankStadium pic.twitter.com/W3VBwJHjVX

— Kelly Blanco (@KellyNBC6) September 19, 2014

Iconic Pabst Beer Brands Sold To Russian Company

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 08:33

Pabst Brewing Co., with its famous Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz labels, is being acquired by Russian brewer Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum.

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How To Get Children To Behave Without Hitting Them

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 08:21

Most parents say they have used corporal punishment. But there's abundant evidence that it doesn't improve behavior over time. Changing how parents talk to children does work, but it takes practice.

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'Murdersquishing' Them To Death: How Little Bees Take On Enormous Hornets

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 07:53

They are small. They are weak. They are vulnerable. But these little bees take on a humongous predator in the most ingenious way.

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India's Modi Calls Al-Qaida's Plans For His Country 'Delusional'

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 07:49

The Indian prime minister, in an interview, called his country's Muslims patriots. The remarks are his most forthcoming on India's Muslims, many of whom doubted his commitment to religious minorities.

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The numbers for September 19, 2014

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 07:39

Alibaba founder Jack Ma is having a great morning. After a record-breaking IPO, the Chinese e-commerce company began trading Friday at $92.70, the New York Times reported. That price values the company at more than $228.5 billion.

While we calculate just how much human hair you could buy with that, here are some other stories we're reading — and numbers we're watching — Friday.

55 percent

In a much more decisive vote than expected, the majority of Scots elected to keep the country in the United Kingdom overnight Friday. The full results show a huge turnout, and the BBC reported that the vote has resonated around the world, from secessionists in Spain to state media in China. 

23,000

That's the number of people killed annually by issues stemming form antibiotic-resistance. The White House launched a new initiative to combat the public health threat Thursday, the Times reported, with a $20 million prize for the development of a better resistance test and a suggested $1.7 billion in funding for research and other initiatives.

$400 million

In an unprecedented sponsorship deal, Microsoft reportedly paid the NFL $400 million to get hundreds of its Surface tablets on the sidelines and in coaches booths for the next several seasons. But the Los Angeles Times reported that announcers keep accidentally calling the tablets "iPads," showing just how much Microsoft's key rival owns the tablet industry.

Debate: Should Schools Embrace The Common Core?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 07:17

The Common Core has arguably become the most contentious issue in American education. Experts face off over the new state standards in the latest Intelligence Squared debate.

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The risks and rewards of Alibaba's IPO

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-09-19 06:54

Alibaba ticks two boxes that get investors very excited: China and technology.

That has investors “salivating,” says Steven Davidoff Solomon, a professor at University of California Berkeley School of Law.

The massive Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange Friday, using the ticker “BABA.” Shares will start at $68, the top of the company’s price range.

There are more people and companies interested in buying stock than there are shares available, but some experts advise caution.

Davidoff Solomon says investors should be aware that the deal is structured in such a way that they’re actually buying into a Cayman Islands company that will receive profits from Alibaba.

“Let’s say that Alibaba China decides just not to pay on those profits,” he explains. “Shareholders would have to sue a Cayman Islands company, gain control of it, and have that Cayman Islands company sue in China. Good luck with that.”

Second, a small group of insiders will retain control of the company and appoint directors, even though they’ll own a small percentage of its shares.

The question then is whether the price is worth these risks.

Matt Turlip, an analyst with PrivCo, has done his own valuation and thinks Alibaba’s shares are actually worth $100 each.

“It’s a giant, profitable company right now that’s growing like a startup still,” says Turlip.

So buy or buyer beware – you decide.

Iran's 'Happy' Dancers Receive Suspended Sentences

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 06:44

Seven young Iranians were arrested in May for producing their own version of the Pharrell Williams song "Happy." Iranian authorities said the video, which went viral, offended public morals.

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Around The World In 8 Hospital Meals

NPR News - Fri, 2014-09-19 06:14

From tasty tempura to gross gruel, hospital meals across the globe vary wildly. Highbrow institutions in China and India have long served top-notch food. U.S. hospitals are starting to follow suit.

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